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Able and willing 10 years ago to start Iraq war, but Australia not so willing to help its refugees

13 March 2013

“Should Australia do more to help newly arrived Iraqi refugees settle, given Australia was a key member of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ that launched a pre-emptive strike on Iraq in 2003?”, a Deakin academic will ask in Melbourne, tomorrow Thursday, March 14.

Libby Effney, a PhD candidate with the University’s Strategic Research Centre, the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation will join Australia’s largest ever symposium of Iraq experts at the ‘Iraq 10 Years On’ Symposium.

The symposium, to be held at the University’s Melbourne City Campus, will review the successes and failures of Australia’s role in the war and the tenuous and difficult relationship between the two nations beyond the withdrawal.

The symposium will include presentations from Her Excellency, Ms Lyndall Sachs the Australian Ambassador to Iraq; Paul Barratt former Deputy Secretary of the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade as well as international Iraq experts like Professor Liam Anderson, Professor Michael C Hudson, Professor Peter Sluglett, Professor Amin Saikal and Professor Joseph Camilleri.

Convenor and expert on Iraq, Dr Benjamin Isakhan said the 10 year anniversary of the Iraq war (19 March 2013) served as a unique opportunity to measure the costs of the intervention, to assess the successes and failures of the goals of the war, and to assess Australia’s obligations moving forward.

“Iraq remains one of the most violent and difficult countries in the world – its infrastructure is crumbling, its government is increasingly authoritarian and many of the people live without adequate sewerage, electricity or water,” he said.

“Iraq is not more peaceful nor prosperous, and only marginally more democratic, than the nation that was so violently invaded 10 years ago.

“There are deep questions about the political responsibilities and moral obligations of the United States and its key coalition partners such as Australia.

“The war has left behind a problematic legacy for Australia but what we do next will determine how we are perceived in Iraq, in the Middle East and across the world.”

What the Deakin speakers will be saying:

Australia ducks responsibility on Iraqi refugees

Ms Libby Effney – “Australian Governments have played a minimal role in finding solutions to the mass displacement of Iraqis and instead peddle a contradictory politics of forced migration; a
politics that simultaneously touts and eschews its commitment to universal human rights
under international law.

“Newly arrived Iraqi refugees in Australia have relatively poor settlement outcomes, exhibit poor mental and physical health and experience high unemployment.

“The quandary in which many Iraqi refugees in Australia find themselves raises important ethical questions about the country’s interpretation of universal human rights and Australia’s obligations to displaced Iraqis.”

Iraq out of sight, out of mind for news media

Associate Professor Martin Hirst - “In 2012 coverage of Iraq in the mainstream Western media was only around 20 per cent of what it was in 2003.

“The diminished range of coverage means that Iraq is rarely on the front page or at the head
of the broadcast bulletin today.

“One might expect public interest in, and knowledge of, events in Iraq to be lower.

“This has implications for how audiences in nations allied to the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ – who share some responsibility for the ‘rebuilding’ of Iraq – might relate to the rebuilding process.

“It creates problems for analysts and public policy-makers who find that their arguments, suggestions and solutions fail to gain traction with the public.”

Is Iraqi oil union the new Solidarity?

Dr Ben Isakhan - “Does the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU), Iraq’s largest and most powerful independent workers union pose one of the greatest challenges to the rising authoritarianism of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and his ruling State of Law Coalition (SLC)?

“The IFOU has repeatedly taken the Iraqi government to task over their poor pay and the dangerous nature of their work, as well as the government’s initial kowtowing to plans by the United States to privatise the entire Iraqi oil sector.

“To do this, the IFOU have used a rich array of very democratic mechanisms including peaceful strikes and protests, media campaigns and political lobbying.

“When such measures have failed to garner the desired results, the IFOU has gone as far as halting oil production and cutting off the supply of oil, kerosene and gas to the rest of the country.”

What has Australia done to rebuild Iraq nation?

Mr Ahmed Hassin – “There is scarce evidence of any research looking at Australia’s role in helping Iraq rebuild as a nation, since the invasion in 2003.

“What development and initiatives has Australia engaged in to improve living conditions, implement structural reforms and integrate the national political system?”

Heritage destruction holds lessons for the future

Ms Diane Siebrandt– “Why were the ruins of Babylon used as a military base, and what was the impact on the site?

“Was tearing down the numerous Saddam Hussein murals and statutes ultimately beneficial to the Iraqi population?

“The bombing of the Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra incited Sectarian violence, could this have been prevented?

“What lessons have been learned over the course of the past decade, what was done properly, and what could have been done better.”

News facts
  • Australia’s largest ever symposium of Iraq experts to gather at the ‘Iraq 10 Years On’ Symposium.
  • 10 year anniversary of the Iraq war (19 March 2013) serves as a unique opportunity to measure the costs of the intervention, to assess the successes and failures of the goals of the war, and to assess Australia’s obligations moving forward.
  • Symposium will include presentations from Her Excellency, Ms Lyndall Sachs the Australian Ambassador to Iraq; Paul Barratt former Deputy Secretary of the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade as well as international Iraq experts like Professor Liam Anderson, Professor Michael C Hudson, Professor Peter Sluglett, Professor Amin Saikal and Professor Jospeh Camilleri

Media contact

Sandra Kingston
Deakin Media Relations
03 9246 8221/0422 005 485
sandra.kingston@deakin.edu.au

Ben Isakhan

Dr Ben Isakhan, 10 year anniversary unique chance to assess Iraq.

Iraquni

Abbasid era Mustansiriyya University - one of the oldest universities in the world (established 1227). Many of the world’s greatest intellectuals made key advances here in astronomy, philosophy, politics, law, science, and medicine

Deakin University acknowledges the traditional land owners of present campus sites.

13th March 2013